Ryley Walker :: Busted Stuff

Earlier this year, Chicago-based songwriter and bandleader Ryley Walker released his fourth full-length lp, the knotty and darkly funny Deafman Glance. But Walker's on a tear. On November 16th, he releases his second record of 2018, The Lillywhite Sessions, a reimagining of the Dave Matthews Band's lost album. Originally recorded in 1999 and 2000, many of these songs surfaced on the DMB's shined-up 2001 lp Everyday. But for their new album, Walker and collaborators Andrew Scott Young and Ryan Jewell took inspiration from the initial, stranger, and altogether less-polished takes, using them as raw materials with which to fashion something new and unexpected. These are far from faithful renditions; Walker opens "Grey Street" with discordant, minimalist reeds, recasts "Kit Kat Jam" with a math rock tint, and brings a sense of impressionisitic melencholy to the bleary "Sweet Up and Down." For all the instrumental reinvention though, Walker seems keenly tapped into the existential fears that the DMB's buoyant jams have a tendency to obscure. "Bartender please, fill my glass for me," Walker sings on "Bartender," the album's best moment. "With the wine you gave Jesus that set him free/After three days in the ground."

On "Busted Stuff," the first taste of the forthcoming album, Walker draws a line straight from Chicago post-rockers the Sea & Cake to the DMB. Though mocked and derided by many as Clinton-era feel-good fluff, Walker highlights both the musical adventurousness and lyrical darkness that exists in the best Dave Matthews Band material. Those listening for the sly, ironic tone that characterizes Walker's social media feeds may find themselves initially baffled. These are songs about mortality and grace, surprising and genuine.

We rang Walker up to discuss. His thoughts, below.

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